Bracing for family violence on grand final day

Paul Hayes

24/09/2019 1:39:26 PM

Sport, high emotion and alcohol can be a dangerous combination.

Silhouette of a football player
Sport can be a unifier, but can also bring a darker side. (Image: AAP)

The last Saturday in September.
The big one. The AFL grand final.
It is a day many have circled on the calendar from the start of the year as a time for celebration.
However, some may have it highlighted for another reason – the increased likelihood of family violence.
According to Victoria Police, the spike in family violence incidents on grand final day is comparable to other alcohol-heavy events such as New Year’s Eve and Melbourne Cup day.
‘On grand final [day], there’s about a 20% increase on a normal night,’ Victoria’s Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said ahead of last year’s final.
‘You can see it’s a really significant increase. It’s one of our biggest nights of the year.
‘Often people in families that don’t often get together, get together on those occasions and issues can surface with a bit of help from the alcohol.
‘Family violence is what flows.’
Sport can be a great unifier, with people from all walks of life coming together to cheer for their team or their country.
But it brings with it an undeniable darker side.
This year’s spate of AFL spectator brawls – one as recently as last weekend – is evidence that sport, high emotion and alcohol can be a dangerous combination.
Writing in The Age, health policy expert Hazel Fetherston described family violence as ‘a complex issue with many influencing factors’.
‘However, one element which has a clear association with family violence is the consumption of alcohol. Research shows that consumption of alcohol is associated with both the likelihood of family violence occurring and the severity of harms that result from this violence,’ she wrote.
Research published in 2018 revealed a 40.7% average increase in domestic violence and 71.8% increase in non-domestic assaults across New South Wales on State of Origin game days.
‘In the 12-hour window from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am on State of Origin game night, women and children in New South Wales are almost 40% more likely to become victims of domestic violence. This is a significant and consistent spike across the three-game series in each and every one of the years examined [in the research],’ Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) Deputy Director, Dr Michael Livingston, said.
‘Of note, when we compare those findings with Victoria, a state with less interest in rugby league, the data reveals no statistically significant increase in violent assaults on the dates in question.’
There have been similar findings in the UK.

GPs have been identified as a crucial bulwark protecting people against continued family violence, with the Federal Government allocating $2.1 million over three years to train 5000 primary care workers on how to better response and support victims.
This funding will also support an update of the RACGP’s Abuse and violence: Working with our patients in general practice (the White Book).
While for many the biggest problem on the day will be dealing with the fallout from which team won or lost, many in healthcare and other services will likely have much more serious concerns.

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